Surviving the Holidays with Special Needs Kids

Guest Post

I love the holidays. I get a flutter of excitement when I see decorations and get the warm and fuzzies from watching A Charlie Brown Christmas. Christmas is in summer in South Africa so the holidays also mean lots of ice cream and beach visits. My special needs twins love Christmas too. But it’s definitely a different experience for them.


Special Needs Kids and Holiday Food

My kids are very fussy eaters. But obviously they love sweet things. Unfortunately sugar has a crazy effect on them. They go from turbo to warp speed in 10 seconds flat. Not the best idea for a calm Christmas. That being said, I don’t believe in denying them too much because then ‘bad’ foods get even more power. I allow them to choose a reasonable amount of sweets. It works well because they feel empowered by having the choice and also know what the limit is. I also make sure to give them protein-rich regular meals, even when days are less routine than normal.

Special Needs Kids and Gifts

My kids started asking for their Christmas gifts in October. This may seems normal but sometimes they descend into mania. I don’t believe it’s because they are spoilt but because they have difficulty understanding the concept. This is what we do to limit the misery and whining:

  1. We put up our Christmas tree as late as possible.
  2. We don’t leave gifts under the tree because it’s torture for them.
  3. We have an advent calendar where they get tiny gifts, which they adore nonetheless, every day. This also gives them a tactile way to see when Christmas is.
  4. We only give them a few gifts at Christmas so that they aren’t overwhelmed.

Family, Friends and Special Needs Kids during the Holidays

I think one of the most important elements to ensuring a harmonious Christmas is a family that is educated about special needs children. People can impose what they think Christmas should be on others. This generally doesn’t work with kids who get overcome with noise, lots of activity and a lack of routine. As with most things, preparation is key. This is how we cope:

  1. We let everyone know that we might leave early of things get bad.
  2. We make sure the kids don’t only eat sweets. This does a lot to limit meltdowns.
  3. We feed the kids before we go out, especially if dinner or lunch is going to be later than they would normally eat.
  4. We have some calming activities planned. This could mean some screen time or going for a drive or walk.
  5. We have an exit strategy. My husband and I decide who will take the boys home if it gets too much. Or we both leave if it gets really bad.

  Enjoying the Holidays with Special Needs Kids

The holidays may be different for families with special needs kids. But that’s ok. Educate your family and friends, find out what works for you and make sure you’re prepared. But above all else, appreciate the love and joy of being together, in whatever way you do it.

 About the Author

Charlotte Jones is a digital marketing consultant, an English teacher and a non-profit director. She is also the proud mother of special needs twin boys. My Little Home School is a personal blog about her journey homeschooling her children. Here you’ll find a glimpse into their lives, practical advice and tips and useful information. It’s also a place to connect with other special needs and homeschooling parents.



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3 thoughts on “Surviving the Holidays with Special Needs Kids”

  1. I love your ideas for helping them understand the time leading up to Christmas. I am considering doing some sort of advent gifts for my two Special Needs kids, I am just unsure what to gift them due to our budget.


    1. One thing we have tried and found successful was to get a small Lego kit and each day they each get one more piece to the set. They find it so much fun to guess what the full set makes and see what they can build with each piece. Although, this could be frustrating for some kids, especially in the first couple of days. You could also do a small craft project each day, perhaps?


    2. I usually get really tiny gifts that I can fit into a small container. I usually use mini plastic figures to keep the costs down. It can be pricey with two kids! But I find they like the idea more than the toy. And it’s so good to help them to learn delayed gratification and also when Christmas is. Laura’s idea of a Lego kit is really fantastic!


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